Tzu Chi provide each household with two blankets, eliciting shy yet joyful smiles from the villagers. | Photo by Wen-hui Yang

In Bodh Gaya, eastern India, the coldest month of the year is January. On January 18 to 19, Tzu Chi distributed warmth and care to the poorest villages in the area. They handed out 822 blankets, benefiting 411 families and helping them get through the cold nights.

On January 18 to 19, 2024, Tzu Chi in Bodh Gaya, India selected several impoverished villages, distributing 822 blankets with gratitude, respect, and love, benefiting 411 families. | Photo by Wen-hui Yang

Feeling the Chill

When temperatures began to drop sharply during the winter months, Tzu Chi volunteer Raymond Kua (郭糧鳴) from Malaysia felt for the villagers who were struggling against the cold. At night, many had to layer up with multiple blankets just to keep warm. Kua noticed that most of their blankets were thin and torn. In one village, he saw people lighting fires outside their homes because the thin blankets could not provide enough warmth.

After discussion, he and fellow volunteers decided to distribute two thick winter blankets to each of the 500-plus households in the five villages. Recognizing the urgent need for warmth during the cold weather, they promptly arranged for the purchase of 1,000 blankets. Despite the challenge, they managed to secure the blankets from suppliers at a reasonable price.

On the evening of January 17, a large truck arrived at the Tzu Chi office in Bodh Gaya, carrying the blankets. Volunteers helped unload and organize them.

At the distribution site, local volunteers work together to neatly fold each blanket one by one. | Photo by Wen-hui Yang

Early on January 18, the volunteers loaded the blankets onto trucks and braved the chilly winds, ready to hit the road. Along the way, they saw villagers gathering firewood to keep warm; this resulted in smoky air. Even animals were struggling against the damp cold; villagers often draped them with old clothes or burlap sacks.

After a 45-minute drive, the volunteers reached the first village, Jagdishpur. Residents were eagerly awaiting their arrival, and the volunteers quickly made preparations for distribution. Simultaneously, the medical team went door-to-door, distributing medical supplies based on pre-assigned door numbers.

More than a Distribution

The volunteers had noticed that villagers would burn anything to keep warm, even plastics, which emitted toxic fumes harmful to health. So they took the opportunity to raise their awareness of fire safety and health protection through photos and videos.

Residents of Jagdishpur Village arrive at the site, presenting their door number tags for registration; they are assisted by the village chief for signature verification. | Photo by Wen-hui Yang
The event continues as local volunteers took turns to introduce Tzu Chi's charitable mission. | Photo by Wen-hui Yang
With the sign language interpretation of "One Family," adults and children join hands, filling the venue with heartwarming laughter and touching moments. | Photo by Wen-hui Yang

The highlight of the day was the distribution of blankets. The joyful atmosphere was palpable as volunteers handed out the blankets to grateful recipients. Even children joined in, their innocent faces radiating warmth and gratitude.

Compassion for Hardship

One touching moment was visiting Anita's home, where she joyfully received two much-needed winter blankets. Anita, whose husband was unwell and unable to work, expressed deep gratitude for the blankets, which they could not afford to buy themselves.

Anita (second from right) from Jagdishpur village happily said: "We use the new blankets along with our homemade blankets, which keeps us warmer. We sleep better this way." | Photo by Wen-hui Yang

With six people, adults and children combined, they cover themselves with two blankets each night. "Now that we have blankets, we can avoid the cold," said Anita gratefully.

"Blankets are very expensive, and we can't afford them. We're very poor, so I used this old shawl instead. Now that we have blankets, we can get through the winter. Thank you!"

Anita's home is very rudimentary, with straw laid on the floor covered by a thin cloth. She and her family sleep on beds made of straw and strips of cloth. Anita showed the volunteers the blankets they typically use:  "We use old clothes and saris we find, stitching them together to stay warm in cold weather."

As she tried out the new blankets, Anita's face lit up with happiness and contentment. "We're using the new blankets along with our homemade ones, which keeps us warmer. If we only use the homemade ones, it feels cold. The new blankets are warm, and we sleep better covered with them.”

Cecilia from Ganga Bigha Village expressed her gratitude: "Tzu Chi has helped me a lot, providing clothes, food, and now blankets and sweaters. So I'm thankful to Tzu Chi." | Photo by Wen-hui Yang
Ajit Manjhi, a resident of Bakraur colony, said: "Thank you to the volunteers for giving us two blankets. Now the children in our village won't cry from the cold at night anymore." |Photo by Li-chu Hsu

Over two days, the volunteers distributed 822 blankets across five villages, bringing warmth to 411 households. Inspired by Master Cheng Yen's compassion, they continue to work tirelessly to fulfill her vision of relieving suffering worldwide. They hope to inspire more local people to join in cultivating this field of blessings.